The Lightning, for those of you who like to keep count, went 27 days without losing a game.
Its eight-game winning streak came to an end Tuesday at TD Garden in Boston, where the Bruins' 6-5 victory tied the best-of-seven Eastern Conference final at one game apiece.
And just like that, Game 3 tonight at the St. Pete Times Forum in Tampa became about more than wins and losses. It is, captain Vinny Lecavalier said, about heart.
"It's how you bounce back that shows what kind of team you are and the character you have," he said. "We realize this is a series. You're not going to win all your games. But you have to make sure that you bounce back and play solid in your next game."
To do that, center Steven Stamkos said, "we have to realize what we did wrong."
We heard a lot about how the Lightning lost its "structure" in Game 2. For Stamkos, that meant lapses in defensive zone coverages, getting sticks on pucks and managing the puck. Lecavalier mentioned turnovers.
Coach Guy Boucher said defensemen jumping into the offensive flow at the wrong times was a big reason the Bruins had so many odd-man rushes.
And yes, he added, perhaps the team was a bit overconfident from its long winning streak.
The good news for Tampa Bay, Boucher said, is "these are things we can correct quite easily."
Also working in the Lightning's favor is experience. This isn't the same team that began the postseason with 11 players making their playoff debuts.
It is a team that overcame a three-games-to-one deficit to the Penguins in the East quarterfinals and swept the top-seeded Capitals in the semis.
"We've learned a lot and matured a lot as a team," Stamkos said. "For guys who hadn't been in the playoffs, we know what it's all about now. We realize what it takes to win a series."
Still, it must have been weird for Lightning players to wake up Wednesday morning and deal with some negative emotions for the first time in a month.
"It's part of the game," goaltender Dwayne Roloson said. "It was nice having the string we did, but we have to focus on the next game. We've never been a team that looked in the past. We looked in the future and tried to control the things we could control, and that's what we're going to try to do (today)."
The Bruins will have some say as well, especially if they continue an aggressive forecheck that helped give them a huge advantage in puck possession and offensive-zone time in Game 2. Boston also did a great job getting traffic in front of Roloson, especially on the power play, which scored twice.
"We were moving the puck better. We shot it more," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "We just seemed to be more determined as a group."
Safe to say the Lightning will be, too, in Game 3.
"We reloaded emotionally in the first series and the second series, so I don't see this one being any different," Boucher said. "It doesn't mean we're going to win games, but we're for sure going to be more aware of weaknesses we presented in the last game and are going to make sure we don't kill ourselves in the next game. (The Bruins are) already a good team. We don't need to give them more chances than they deserve."
Damian Cristodero can be reached at email@example.com.
Game 3, Lightning vs. Bruins, 8, St. Pete Times Forum, Tampa TV/radio: Versus; 970-AM
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